“For heaven I’m a failure, for earth I’m as good as anyone else.”

TakagiHaruyamaTwo things today:

1. My Bubba is a fan-freaking-tastic musical duo composed of two girls—one Swedish, one Icelandic—who make the kind of dreamy yet down-to-earth music that my heart is currently craving. Do you like smart, poetic lyrics with haunting vocals? Well, then you’ll dig these ladies. Start here. Fall down the NPR rabbit hole. Enjoy.

2. I’ve been reading a lot of mythology lately and one of my favorite stories comes from Japanese folklore. It’s about the moon-rabbit, a mythological creature that lives in the sky. There are so many different stories about the moon, but this one has stuck with me. Wild rabbits (like bears) show up in my dreams fairly often, and I feel a weird kinship with those scattered, scared creatures. Anyway, if you’re not familiar with the story, here it is….

Three animals, a fox, a monkey, and a rabbit, lived together in the forest. The moon looked down on them and saw that they were happy. But he wondered: Which of these animals is the kindest? Which one is willing to give the most of themselves? The moon considered his creatures, these animals who came out to dance when he was shining his brightest. Like anyone who is plagued by questions, he decided there was nothing to do but find an answer. And so he went down to earth to meet the animals that played in the night.

In the guise of a poor old beggar-man, he arrived at their home. The fox, the monkey, and the rabbit were surprised to see the white-beard, but they welcomed him. Like any god who comes to test the hospitality of mortals, he asked for food and shelter. The fox ran off to find a meal for their guest. He returned with a big, fresh fish in his mouth. The monkey swung off to find food for their guest. He returned with bananas and berries in his paws. The rabbit leapt off to find food for their guest. But though he searched long and hard, the grass-eater couldn’t find anything.

He returned home with nothing in his paws, but a determined look on his furry face. He told his friends to prepare a big fire. He told the moon he hadn’t been able to bring back food for him. Although he was just a poor beggar, the rabbit had promised to give him a meal, and that is what he planned to do. He got ready to leap into the fire where he would roast his flesh, transforming his body into a meal for their hungry visitor. He coiled his muscles and got ready for death. “I will offer you myself, for I have nothing else to give,” he said.

But before he sprang up and into the blazing fire, the moon cast aside his disguise. He straightened his back and spread his arms, power radiating from the base of his spine to the tips of his ears. The animals stared at this mighty figure. “I am the moon,” he told them, “and I came to see who was the kindest animal on earth. I have found him.”

He took the rabbit up to the moon, where they will live together forevermore. The wild hare became his companion, glowing in the sky. White-beard and white-rabbit now spend their nights moving from one horizon to another, crossing the gleaming river of stars and illuminating the faces of dreamers as they sleep.

And that’s the story of the moon rabbit.

And because two isn’t enough… here’s a third thing: If you’re not already watching You’re The Worst, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I’ve never seen a TV show that captures depression so well. It’s funny and clever and sad and scary and familiar. It’s just… sofa king good. Watch it. 

Image: Artist Takagi Haruyama, 1850’s, Japan, Edo period, “Rabbit”

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3 thoughts on ““For heaven I’m a failure, for earth I’m as good as anyone else.”

  1. Stumbled upon this post purely by chance. Last night, scrolling through my FB newsfeed, there was another Japanese folklore story about a creature that has an eye in its backside. Really-I shared purely on the illustration alone 🙂

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